It’s April. It’s GloPoWriMo

You might call it NaPoWriMo. It started that way. But given that the globe is experiencing such a collective shared experience, I prefer the GloPoWriMo label. This April is prime for getting the globe to write a poem a day. While many things are uncertain and stressful, I am sticking to the same site I have used for daily inspiration for the past three years. I began NaPoWriMo in 2017. In September of 2018 I thought I would push the boundaries and see how long I could go with writing a poem a day. I completely that 365 day journey in September 2019. With the urgency of staying in situ, on weekdays I have been posting photos from my garden with a haiku on Instagram (look for Word Alchemy to follow me.)

So this is Day 1’s prompt:

Forrest Gump famously said that “life is like a box of chocolates.” And there are any number of poems out there that compare or equate the speaker’s life with a specific object. (For example, this poem of Emily Dickinson’s). Today, however, I’d like to challenge you to write a self-portrait poem in which you make a specific action a metaphor for your life – one that typically isn’t done all that often, or only in specific circumstances. For example, bowling, or shopping for socks, or shoveling snow, or teaching a child to tie its shoes.

http://www.napowrimo.net/
Lift Off

I am the granddaughter
of a New York City elevator operator,
which is one step above
bellhop.  He went from labourer to
janitor and on up.
But for his foreshortened life span,
all forty-five years, well...
who knows. The skyscraper 
was his own limit, though
his sons did better than expected.
They had the GI Bill,
were educated beyond 
Depression expectations.

I press the buttons myself for lift off,
and let myself down.
I must rely upon myself,
though sometimes a fellow passenger
will ask which floor I want
and do the honours.
Or I am the one doing that particular
chore, pressing for five, eleven, nine
or going to ground floor.

I am not smartly uniformed
like my Grandpa. Mostly
no one knows my business
or if I am going up, or
if I am going down. 


Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.

Today’s featured image is courtesy Diego Fernandez on Unsplash

From a Distance

How are you doing? The Sunday Weekly poetry post will offer you two poems this week. I have been writing virtually daily though not posting here on such a regular basis. If you want a daily dose of haiku poetry, illustrated with photos taken in our garden, then I recommend that you follow me on Instagram. Look for Word Alchemy for some #haikusofinstagram.

Here in Ireland we are now restricted to remaining within two kilometres of home, except for travel for food shopping or pharmacies or medical centres. Leitrim, which is just the other side of the bridge in our village was the last county in the Republic to report infection. We live in a remote location and can go days just waving at the odd passing car. So not a lot has changed for us, except the new distancing drill at our local supermarket. For such a small village, we are blessed to have a well-stocked shop. While the rest of the world is hoarding toilet paper, in Ireland there has been a run on flour. Apparently, Ireland is baking her way through quarantine.

But before the first poem, so eye candy from the garden.

Cowslip
Cowslip
Daffodils
Daffodils

The first poem came about when my friend in England had a text from her neighbour that the NASA Space Station is visible every night for a brief time. There was too much cloud cover the first night, but I did manage it in a five minute window on Thursday. You can sky watch for it until 4th April. Plug in your location and they will direct you from https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/.

Irish Earth to Space Station
26th March 2020
 
It was a streak, like a comet.
It was a blip. There. Then gone.
So my friend reported from her own
viewing platform
in another country.
 
A crescent moon with Venus
flirting over Her shoulder.
Eyes bisected vectors of horizon,
West, south, east, northeast.
Then. There.
 
In the newly darkened sky a steady
blinking, an elliptical swirling,
a lumbering quasar moving inexorably
in Enniskillen’s direction, an elephant
patrolling earth, crossing borders
 
in air space. No. Make that
outer space, the final frontier.
Wave to those pioneers.
We salute you, space sailors.
Imagine up there if you can
 
all those waves to you from
a distance, before you disappear
behind the cloud cover.
We are waving to you in your
isolation from our own.
 
Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.

Another bit of eye candy before the next poem…

Quaker Bonnet Primrose
The mauve primrose on the left is called Quaker Bonnet


Pocket
 
A river pebble. A small cowrie shell.
A lock of baby hair tied up with silk ribbon.
An acorn found, picked with foraged morel,
in among crumbs of broken chocolate bourbons.
A shiny penny piece of change to spare,
a bit of luck to give up when the hat’s passed round.
All this collection could be anywhere,
but they are soundlessly secure in their clothbound
world. A pocket. Talismans. Amulets
more valuable than a leather wallet.
 
Don’t let anyone pickpocket your joy.
Jingle your happiness like a carefree schoolboy.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.

Look out for haiku during the week with Word Alchemy on Instagram. Check in here, too. You never know what might turn up…

Start the Week: Write Haiku

As many of my readers will know, I am a great advocate for writing a poem a day. Some folk are natural rhymsters and rappers. Others are not. To those who are averse to end rhyme I commend the practice of haiku and senryu writing. It is perfect for a contemplative life. Writing poetry is very grounding. It’s like a daily internal check-in with your heart. But you are also looking outwards, noticing seasonal changes or human behavioural foibles. Haiku and senryu are gentle poems. Gentleness is what we need right now – both with ourselves and to others.

Try it. Seventeen syllables. You can do it in less, but absolutely no more. That’s the boundary on your haiku ballpark. Three lines. Although some people do two or four. The lines are flexible. For haiku you need to use a kigo, or seasonal word, that gives us a hint of the season when written. Something like daffodils to indicate spring. Oh, and another thing. No comparisons. No ‘as a..’ or ‘like a’.

Senryu is more an observation of human behaviour. Often it is wryly amused. But also it often has great affection.

What I offer to you today is really neither a classic senryu or haiku. So that falls into the category of a micropoem. But it was a very pleasing snap taken in our garden. For people who are staying in and do not have a view of spring emerging I thought I would offer this picture with a few words.

haiku senryu micropoem buddha garden

Cocooning

It’s a golden Sunday morning in a week that will shape all our lives. I really like that our Taoiseach has called this time of social distancing cocooning. We are waiting for the new beginning, the afterwards when there will be a transformation and a beautiful butterfly will burst forth. I am sure he may not have have all that metaphorical stuff going on when he was writing his St. Patrick’s Day speech to the nation, but…it works for me! Because there is great beauty in the expressions of kindness to one another that are happening. We are called to cherish one another. May the butterfly that emerges from this cocooning time be one of kindness and universal care, that the time spent in isolation will be a cure for our most selfish instincts. Wouldn’t that be something?!

For those who are staying home and want creative activities, Poetry Ireland’s poet in residence is posting a daily poetry spark to get you started. Check out Catherine Ann Cullen’s Twitter @tarryathome. She posts a prompt for kids and adults. I am writing daily and have been finding writing haiku a wonderful exercise in focusing on calm. Spring is here, despite some cold temperatures and hoar frost in the morning. Things are growing and transforming. Our little acre is waking up and looking lively.

Stay tuned for random haiku here on the blog. Even if you don’t have a window and are unable to get out to public gardens to view the daffodils, I will beam you some of nature’s signs that creation persists. Haiku writing can be habit forming though. You have been warned! Given the restrictions of seventeen syllables, a seasonal hint, and making sense in the English language, not to mention having a little Zen something, it can be fiendishly challenging. A bit like crossword puzzles. But so worth it! It really does cure the hamster wheel of negative thoughts going round. Try it!

But here is the Sunday weekly poem. Which was in part sparked by a quotation from an Egyptian poet Iman Mersal:

Poetry is a journey in the dark towards an unknown destination.

Iman Mersal
I Know You Read This Poem
 
I know you read this poem
as if it were some sorcery,
or a conjuring trick, or as if
it were a spell for a way out.
I know you read this poem
with fear in your heart.
 
I know you read this poem
as it if were a map
of an uncharted territory.
And I know! That's an oxymoron,
but they often contain all known
fears at their very heart.
 
I know you read this poem
because you want to learn
how to read your own heart,
because you seek a kind of light
to show you the way out. 
And because you also want
 
there to be more than fear
in your heart. So…
You turn again and again to art.
Which is why I know you read
this poem, which is part spell and
part prayer, from deep in my heart.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved.

Vernal Equinox Haiku

Spring arrived in the early morning hours. I awoke to the most sparkling of mornings. The light was golden. There was frost on our field. It is the perfect day for gardening. My 70 year old birthday boy husband has been out since he finished his breakfast. A sunny day in the garden is the best of birthday presents as far as he is concerned. It is the perfect day, as far as I am concerned, to be writing some haiku and sharing them with the world, especially for those who do not have nature within eyeshot.

I have been writing each morning. Here are some spring time haiku for you. I hope you have some garden space, or a window box, some compost, so you, too, can grub around in some dirt.

vernal equinox haiku

HumpDay Haiku 3

Many who normally would not be at home midweek and able to surf the internet, welcome! If uncertainty is certainly our new normal, this is my tip for those new to staying at home. Try writing a poem a day. It beats paranoia and if you draft it with pen and paper, that will keep you temporarily distracted from news of Doomsday as you cower behind your bog roll tower. (Seriously, some are going without because others were greedy and somehow thought this bug gives you the shits. It doesn’t. So stop hoarding so those who have medical conditions that require a lot of toilet paper have some! My brother reports that New York City seems sold out.)

If you are new to the writing a poem a day gig I suggest that you connect on Twitter with Poetry Ireland’s poet in residence Catherine Ann Cullen (@tarryathome). She is posting a prompt daily, one for kids and one for adults. From personal experience I can say that writing a poem a day is a very grounding activity. It will help harness some of those monkeys swinging on the bars of your jungle gym mind.

While I am less enthusiastic about poetry manuscript re-writes at the moment I am thinking that I will step up the poetry practice, even if I don’t post daily. For the moment I am sticking with the midweek haiku and the Sunday Weekly. But that may change. Which mirrors our current reality.

In the meantime HumpDay Haiku is here:

HumpDay Haiku

The Solitude of Social Distancing

It has been some week, hasn’t it?! When contemplating what to write for the Sunday Weekly poem, it felt like it was inevitable that the virus on everyone’s mind would have to be the subject.

But the week was more than just checking in and changing plans and washing hands like we are all Pontius Pilate. Friday was the 58th anniversary of my father’s death. Who, coincidentally, was born in Corona, Queens, New York, and was an toddler during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.

I have been posting HumpDay Haiku for the past few weeks. I wrote a senryu on the aniversary of his passing.

I emailed a check in with all my siblings, all over age 65, all considered in the most vulnerable age group. One lives in the Philadelphia suburbs adjacent to the epicentre of the virus in Montgomery County. He is a doctor. And a medical director of a retirement village. Also, a medical professor. Two of his children are teachers . The other brother lives in New York City, which has a State of Emergency. The run on toilet paper meant that his usual grocery delivery service was unable to fulfill this week. My brother-in-law has a medical condition that means they go through a lot. So there was my brother rangeing around stores, most already plundered by people who probably will have a lifetime supply of toilet paper. He came back from that shopping trip on a subway half full. Likely his last trip on public transport for a while.

Thursday brought the announcement of school, university and creche closures in the Republic of Ireland. We live in a remote spot of rural Ireland which now has cancelled Mass and confirmations. During Lent! Funerals are for immediate family only. Given that funerals are such an important social institution in Ireland this is like the seventh impossibility conceived before breakfast.

I wonder if any of the kids will choose St. Corona as a confirmation name?

So for the week ending on the Ides of March, this

The Solitude of Social Distancing

You have nowhere to go.
You can speak remotely,
unless you have no home,
unless you are a refugee.

We can count the benefits,
create our silverlinings
playlist of blessings, until
the day we reckon the cost.

In our isolation
we can begin to contemplate
all our social obligations
in a world the size of a pea, not a plate.

We can pray to the patron saint
of pandemics, or, oddly,
St. Corona, who takes calls
regarding epidemics.

Copyright © Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved.

In our solitude of social distancing we can do what our grandmothers did – spring clean. Invoke the goddess Hygeia, who volunteered her name to venerate the concept of hygiene.

Thanks for Photo by Joseph Gruenthal on Unsplash that is our featured image.